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until I had taken some time (it may be two or three minutes) to
peruse and absorb as it were the idea of his external youthful
lineaments that I found myself in a condition to speak.'
Elsewhere Sylvester records his bewilderment when, after
having toiled up the three flights of narrow stairs leading to
Poincare's 'airy perch', he paused, mopping his magnificent
bald head, in astonishment at beholding a mere boy, *so blond,
so young", as the author of the deluge of papers which had
heralded the advent of a successor to Cauchy,
A second anecdote may give some idea of the respect in
which Poincare's work is held by those in a position to appre-
ciate its scope. Asked by some patriotic British brass hat hi the
rabidly nationalistic days of World War I - when it was
obligatory on all academic patriots to exalt their aesthetic allies
and debase their boorish enemies - who was the greatest man
France had produced in modern times, Bertrand Russell
answered instantly, 'Poincare.' 'What! That man?' his unin-
formed interlocutor exclaimed, believing Russell meant Ray-
mond Poincare, President of the French Republic, *Oh,' Russell
explained when he understood the other's dismay, *I was
fhrnlnng of Raymond's cousin, Henri PoineareV
Poincare was the last man to take practically all mathe-
matics, both pure and applied, as his province* It is generally
believed that it would be impossible for any human being
starting to-day to understand comprehensively, much less do
creative work of high quality in more than two of the four main
divisions of mathematics - arithmetic, algebra, geometry,
analysis, to say nothing of astronomy and mathematical
physics. However, even in the 1880's, when Poincare's great
career opened, it was commonly thought that Gauss was the
last of the mathematical universalists, so it may not prove
impossible for some future Poincare once more to cover the
entire field.
As mathematics evolves it both expands and contracts*
somewhat like one of Lemaitre's models of the universe. At
present the phase is one of explosive expansion, and it is quite
impossible for any man to familiarize himself with the entire-
inchoate mass of mathematics that has been dumped OB the